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Monthly Archives: February 2016

4 Signs of an Eating Disorder Everyone Should Know About

Eating Disorder

When we think of people with eating disorders, we often think of women who are so skinny that you can see all of their ribs, or girls who go in the bathroom to throw up after every meal. But just because you can’t see your daughter’s bones through her skin doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have a problem with food.

There are many misconceptions about eating disorders and because February is Eating Disorder Awareness Month, we want to set the record straight. Bulimia and anorexia may be the most recognized names associated with an eating disorder, but there are other signs of an eating disorder that parents should watch out for.

Ilene Wynn, a registered dietitian and coordinator of the eating disorder program at Yellowbrick, says it’s important that parents observe their son or daughter’s behavior closely to look for some subtle warning signs that may indicate an eating disorder.

Here are signs of eating disorders to be on the lookout for:

  1. Dieting
    There always seems to be some kind of diet in fashion—take juicing or veganism, for example—and sometimes, these can be taken too far. Warning signs include skipping meals and limiting food choices to one or two small quantities. It’s important to understand that each person’s behaviors will be different, but if these kinds of behaviors are ongoing, this is potentially problematic.
  1. Binge eating
    Binge eating is typically described as recurrent incidences of consuming large amounts of food, typically within a short of period of time, until one feels extreme discomfort. The tendency to binge is often driven emotionally and contributes to feeling out of control followed by a sense of guilt, embarrassment, and shame about oneself. A child or adolescent may be using bingeing to find temporary relief from an array of negative feelings. Some hidden signs may include isolation from family and friends, moodiness, irritability, change in eating behaviors, and lack of self-care.
  2. Obsessive thoughts about food and calorie intake
    Obsessive thoughts can indicate the presence of restrictive eating behaviors or alternating bingeing and restriction. Extreme circumstances occur when much of one’s day is spent thinking about food — what you have eaten, what you will eat at the next meal or snack.  Constantly calculating calories consumed and knowledge of the caloric content of most foods eaten are a sign that disordered eating and thinking is occurring. Often an individual has difficulty thinking about much else and these thoughts begin to run one’s life. It is important to note that often the obsession with food and calorie intake is not about the food at all, but rather, a way that someone can exert control to manage other negative thoughts and feelings.
  3. Obsession about healthy eating
    Officially called Orthorexia Nervosa, this behavior is all about “fixation on righteous eating” (per National Eating Disorder Association). When the obsession is unhealthy, an individual begins to focus only on eating foods that are nutrient-dense food. Eventually, this leads to obsessive concerns about what to eat and how much, and contending with any deviations from this rigidity become out of control. Those who suffer from Orthorexia may isolate from friends and family because their focus is solely upon food. The obsessive thoughts often have nothing to do with food and everything about one’s self-image.

How You Can Help

If you think that your son or daughter may be suffering from an eating disorder, there are ways you can help. Here’s some advice from Pan Tansey, director of professional relations at Yellowbrick.

  1. Educate Yourself
    Tansey says the first step before you approach your son or daughter with your concerns is to educate yourself about eating disorders. “Eating disorders are very complex and there is a lot to understand,” Tansey says.
  2. Have a conversation
    Tansey says parents must manage their own anxiety in order to approach the conversation by asking and not accusing, and, most importantly, not judging. Eating disorders often exist in a world of secrecy and shame so you may encounter defensiveness and denial. This conversation may need to be followed by many more as you set the tone for compassion and understanding. This may allow for your child to feel comfortable talking with you not just about the eating disorder behaviors, but also about stresses and concerns that are going on in his/her life.
  3. Don’t comment on how they look
    When having a conversation with your son or daughter, Tansey says it’s important that parents avoid commenting on appearance. Body image concerns are a major struggle for many young people with eating issues. Instead, try to focus on what behaviors you have observed as the cause for concern.“The most important aspect of these conversations is to listen. Let him or her know that you are interested in what they have to say and want to work collaboratively with them to approach the issue,” Tansey says. “This lets them know that they are not alone with their struggles and that you are there to help.”
  1. Seek professional help
    The final step if you believe that your son or daughter is struggling with an eating disorder is to seek professional help. Again, it is important to do your research. There are many programs and therapists that address this issue. The web sites mentioned above can provide the kind of support and information about treatment settings to help you decide what your son or daughter needs.

Yellowbrick provides intensive outpatient services for young adults who suffer from anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders, such as the ones mentioned above.

5 Ways That Young Adults Can Build Resiliency


When a young adult struggles with an addiction, an eating disorder, or a mental health issue such as severe anxiety, depression or a suicide attempt, most parents’ first concern is getting their son or daughter well. But after he or she has made progress in treatment, the next biggest worry is often: Is it going to last?

For many young adults, the key to whether they will be able to enjoy lasting recovery or whether they will continually relapse into old behavior is how resilient they can be in the face of life’s ongoing challenges. The transition from adolescence to adulthood is one of the most challenging times of life.

“Resiliency is the ability to bounce back from misfortune,” says Dana Bender, director of Core Competence Services at Yellowbrick. “It’s not a skill inherent in most people, but one that can be taught and practiced. Young adults most often learn resilience from parents, teachers, or other role models and from their own experience coping with difficulties and maintaining a positive attitude in the face of adversity.”

Many of today’s young people are less equipped to deal with setbacks than in the past, expecting quick solutions to problems and feeling increasingly paralyzed by the pressure to succeed.

“There’s a whole trend of perfectionism that doesn’t allow for people to make mistakes or fail at things they try to accomplish” Bender says, adding that pressure often leads people to turn to alcohol, drugs, food or other destructive behaviors to avoid experiencing the negative feelings that arise when something doesn’t go their way.

To have long-lasting recovery, young adults need to learn how to cope with disappointments without resorting to substances or other negative behaviors to try and feel better. That’s why Yellowbrick puts a strong emphasis on teaching young adults the skills needed to help them build their resiliency.

At Yellowbrick, Bender says therapists work with young adults to help them realize that “failure” is an important part of the process of moving forward, and to help them break down tasks into smaller steps to build self-esteem and demonstrate effective methods for reaching their goals.

Bender says when young adults realize they have the power to improve their lives, they can become empowered and feel hopeful and optimistic that their current circumstances won’t last forever.

Here are five tools that young adults can use to build resiliency:

  1. Make Self-Care a Priority
    In order to apply yourself fully to facing challenges, Bender says it’s important that young adults focus on self-care, such as getting enough sleep, eating right and exercising. “You can’t be resilient if you are drained, haven’t eaten, or haven’t slept,” Bender says. Cognitive functioning is also impaired when self-care is not attended to properly. Physical, cognitive, emotional and psychological wellness are key factors in building resiliency.
  2. Go After What You Want
    Often times, Bender young adults feel overwhelmed or unmotivated to finish school or get a job because they are trying to please their parents rather than themselves, but when they take time to reflect on their own dreams, they are able to be more resilient. “If you really want something, your resiliency may increase, allowing you to keep trying. If you don’t truly want something for yourself, you won’t try as hard, and may give up sooner when faced with obstacles to overcome,” she says.
  3. Break Down Your Goals Into Smaller Steps
    Bender says it is important for young adults to realize that success doesn’t come overnight; it’s all about progressing step by step. Bender says parents can help, too, not only by being encouraging, but also by actively helping their sons or daughters figure out the steps they need to take to achieve their goals. Parents can demonstrate this by successfully taking steps towards their own goals or by taking the steps together with their son or daughter.
  1. Remember That Mistakes are Part of Learning
    Bender says many young adults expect to be able to reach their goals without having to practice or experience setbacks. Building resilience is about teaching them that you can learn from your mistakes and learn from your failures. “Focus on the strengths you are building along the way,” Bender says.
  2. Be Part of a Community
    Isolation can lead to feeling stuck, unmotivated, and depressed — which can all lead to relapse. To prevent that, Bender says it’s essential that young adults strengthen their social networks and find supportive people whom they can share their feelings with as they take risks and face challenges. Bender suggests young adults seek support in 12-step programs, group therapy settings, extra-curricular activities or other groups in their community.

If you or someone you know is a young adult suffering from mental health problems, contact Yellowbrick today.




Depression in college

Dealing with Depression While Away at College: How Parents Can Help

Going away to college is one of the most life changing events that happens in any young adult’s life, and it’s common for many college students to experience feelings of sadness and loneliness when they go away to school.

David Daskovsky, senior psychologist at Yellowbrick, says students often feel sad and lonely, especially during their freshman year, as they are bombarded with an avalanche of changes – everything from separation and loss of family and friends, the pressure of dealing with more rigorous coursework, and the challenge of having to figure out where they fit in socially.

“It’s remarkable anybody makes the transition unscathed,” Daskovsky says.

But for some students, these feelings of sadness and loneliness can turn into major battles with depression that can lead to them dropping out of school or committing suicide.

In fact, a 2009 study from the University of Michigan found that college students with depression were more than twice as likely to drop out of school, and a 2009 report in Professional Psychology showed that more than half of all college students have contemplated suicide.

So if you’re a parent of a college student, how do you know if your son or daughter’s feelings of sadness are normal or are a sign of more serious depression?

Daskovsky says it’s important to keep the lines of communication open so you’re able to tell what’s going on with your son or daughter’s mental health.

“If someone is just homesick, they would be sad, but they would be able to function,” Daskovsky says. “But if somebody who normally would be communicative is not responding to texts or calls, or is not sleeping or losing interest in things that used to be pleasurable, that might be a sign of depression.”

Other signs of depression can include:

  • Not going to class; lack of interest in school
  • Change of appetite or weight
  • Sleeping too much or not enough
  • Increased use of drugs or alcohol
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Extreme anger
  • Thoughts of suicide or dying

Daskovsky says students may also become depressed if they feel like they don’t have a specific direction for where their life is going or if they feel they have failed to live up to their parents’ expectations.

If you suspect that your son or daughter may be depressed at college, here are some things you can do:

  1. Ask Them How They Feel
    To determine how serious your son or daughter’s depression is, ask them to compare their current feelings to how they have felt in the past.
  2. Express Your Concerns Directly
    “Don’t dance around the issue,” Daskovsky says. “Tell your son or daughter that you are concerned about them.”
  3. Encourage Them To Seek Help
    If you determine that your son or daughter is suffering from depression, remind them that they are not alone. Encourage them to seek help from their college’s counseling office.
  4. Tell Someone
    You can also communicate with the school’s the counseling office or your child’s advisor to alert the school of the problem and so someone on campus is aware and paying attention to your son or daughter’s condition.

Get more information about Yellowbrick’s approach to treating depression among college students and young adults.